Sunday, 18 December 2011

Timing is everything

Last week the DCMS committee received a letter from Linklaters including the transcript of That Email, which James Murdoch claims not to have read. The letter says that firm "recently became aware" of the email.

Notably this came after Linklaters had sent a letter to the committee on 1st December stating:
The MSC [News Corp's Management and Standards Committee] can confirm that it has reviewed all available documents likely to be relevant to Mr Myler’s request and is satisfied that none throw any further light on the events of May and June 2008.
On a sympathetic reading, having told the DCMS committee that there was no evidence relating to those crucial days in the summer of 2008, the MSC then stumbled upon this email (or, perhaps, was shown it by the police - see below). The email in question is rather relevant, as it suggests James Murdoch was made aware of the implications of the Taylor case (and, of course, he claims he didn't read all of the email).

The thing is, over a month ago, on 12th November, the Daily Mail ran a story saying that the police had discovered some "bombshell" emails that could be trouble for James Murdoch (they actually said that the police might want to question him). And on the evening of November 12th ex-Times editor Andrew Neil tweeted that a source close to Murdoch Snr had told him that they were indeed bad news for Murdoch Jnr.

Brillo Pad's exact words were:
Source close to R Murdoch tells me emails uncovered by police in India (see today's Daily Mail) potentially 'devastating' for James M down.
A source close to Rupe sounds like a News Corp, or ex News Corp, person, and this is someone who is aware back in mid November of "emails" that are "devastating" for James Murdoch. So, unless there are more emails to emerge (which, to state the obvious, would be worse for Murdoch Jnr) it seems reasonable assumption that the transcript disclosed to the DCMS committee last week is one of the "bombshell" emails that the Mail story i November referred to. It's possibly significant that Neil tweeted 'potentially devastating', perhaps indicating the source's view that the evidence could be spun (ie by claiming the email hadn't been read properly).

But the timeline also means that someone close to Murdoch Snr knew about this crucial email a month before it was disclosed to the select committee. Does that mean that Murdoch knew too? More significantly, someone knew about this in mid-November - before shareholders voted on James Murdoch's re-election as BSkyB chair. As I said, the Mail story appeared on 12th November. That was two days after Murdoch Jnr appeared before the DCMS committee. So it is even possible that someone knew about this email before he gave evidence.

There are some big issues lurking here that deserve exploration. In terms of News Corp's internal governance, how is a source close to Rupert Murdoch able to take a view on these emails more than a month before the company's own internal investigation seems to have become aware of them? When did the MSC know? Who knew before then? Was this information known by News Corp before the BSkyB AGM, and if so was it communicated to the board?

Someone, somewhere knew a lot earlier, and they may have allowed BSkyB shareholders to take a crucial voting decision without letting them have access to significant new information. Securities litigation people could have a field day here.

1 comment:

Charles said...


Now Andrew Neil.